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Short-term rentals cause long-term headaches in Oro-Medonte

'Nobody seems to really care about us,' says neighbour of Airbnb; Some operators are not heeding the spirit of the concept, residents say

Home sharing is supposed to be a way for homeowners to rent out some of their space once in a while to make some extra money.

However, the spirit of home sharing is not being upheld in Oro-Medonte, with cottages being bought by people who live near Toronto to rent out year-round as party hotels with the neighbourhoods suffering the consequences, say some local residents.

“Ontario is home to many responsible Airbnb hosts who share their homes a few nights each month to help make ends meet,” says Lindsey Scully with the public affairs department of Airbnb Canada.

Yet in Oro-Medonte, it’s not always just a few nights each month.

“This could be next door to you. But if it isn’t, you don’t really know it’s an issue,” says Kim Pressnail, who owns a waterfront cottage off Line 9 in Oro-Medonte and has taken his concerns to council over regulating the short-term rental market in the township.

In May 2017, the waterfront cottage next door to Kim Pressnail’s sold.

“We noticed (the new owners) had a lot of parties,” says Pressnail. “The driveway was full of cars. It took us about a month or two to figure out that it was a transient thing, they were different people.”

“There was a lot of noise, but we put up with it. Yelling outside, people up until 4 a.m. around the fire.

(At the time) we thought, oh well, they’re just boisterous neighbours,” he says.

Pressnail’s daughter brought to his attention that the property was listed on Airbnb for $700 a night in the summer months.

“I called my brother up to tell him... he told me he was living the very same story,” says Pressnail.

At first, Pressnail says he didn’t want to complain to anybody because he and his wife wanted to be good neighbours.

As the weeks passed and the noise issues didn’t improve, Pressnail decided to send an email to Mayor Harry Hughes, in August of 2017. Pressnail says Hughes came to his home the next day to address his concerns.

According to Jenny Legget, communications officer for the Township of Oro-Medonte, the township did start receiving multiple complaints about short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods in the fall of 2017.

Complaints were primarily related to excessive partying, noise, garbage and concerns regarding additional stress/use on septic systems.

“Based on the number of complaints that were received, council made a determination that it was timely and important to take an overall look at short-term rentals as a whole,” says Legget.

In June 2018, an interim control bylaw was put in place grandfathering existing rentals, but not allowing new short-term rentals until the township had time to figure out how to regulate the market.

Staff plans to present a report to council on the issue prior to the 2019 summer season. In the meantime, Legget adds that there is currently a process in place to investigate complaints regarding short-term rentals.

Pressnail says he’s had to call the fire department on multiple occasions due to smoke from the neighbour’s fire pit barrelling into his home. He concedes that after a couple of calls, the property owners did move the fire pit and added an enclosure.

“We still get smoked out,” he says. “Since then, it’s been better (with the owners). The problem with short-term rentals though is that each time, new people come.”

Pressnail and his brother made a deputation to council outlining the issues with short-term rentals, the experiences they’d had first-hand and information on what other local municipalities are doing in regards to the issue.

In the presentation, Pressnail made suggestions on rules that could be added to the bylaw that might curb commercial operators, such as only allowing residents to rent out their own homes, adding minimum stay regulations of no less than seven days and adding maximum occupancy limits.

“That would stop 80% of the problem right there,” says Pressnail.

“I look at what other municipalities have done. I’ve looked at this all different ways. A friend of mine lives up (north by a lake) and is a responsible renter. They’ve done this for years, so what is the problem?” says Pressnail.

“The problem is, now with the internet, you have irresponsible people renting. They’re there just to get as much cash as possible. How do you control them? How do you create a net that catches them but allows others to continue to do as they’ve always done, which is to rent their cottage for a little extra income?”

“I just don’t want this bylaw to be written as a guise for allowing commercial operators,” he says.

While licensing short-term rentals may be an idea floated as a possible solution, he doesn’t think it is the right one.

“Would you want a licensed hotel next door to you in a residential neighbourhood? If the answer is no, why are we even thinking about licensing?” asks Pressnail.

Pressnail is also concerned the Airbnb next door will contribute to a decrease in the MPAC value of his property and others along the waterfront.

“If my property values are going to go down... what is the benefit to the township?” says Pressnail.

Scully, with the public affairs department of Airbnb Canada, adds that when hosts sign-up on Airbnb, they must certify that they will comply with local rules before they list their space. Airbnb also has a hosting responsibilities page that reminds people to check their local laws and regulations.

When issues arise between neighbours, Scully also points to the Airbnb Neighbour Tool.

By visiting, neighbours of Airbnb properties can share specific concerns they might have about a listing in their community. Once a neighbour submits feedback, Airbnb will send a confirmation email along with a case number, and will contact the property owner to try to come up with a resolution.

“Every community is unique, so Airbnb is committed to working directly with communities across the province on fair, easy-to-follow regulations,” says Scully.

Olesea Burduh and her husband Andrei Dors own the property next door to Pressnail, and say they have tried to address their neighbour’s concerns. The couple lives in Richmond Hill and drive in to Oro-Medonte whenever they need to do changeovers between guests.

“We’ve tried to talk to them to find out the main problem. They said the noise. So we changed a few things around the house,” says Burduh, adding she gave the Pressnails her phone number to call if the noise is bothering them. “They don’t call me. They just call 911.”

Burduh says she and her husband purchased the cottage specifically to use as a rental property, but now with the township considering adding restraints, they may consider selling.

“This cottage is for people who can’t afford to buy a lakefront property, but they want to come maybe once or twice a year to relax. These people should have the right to do that,” she says.

Connie McDermot lives in the Maplewood Parkway area of Oro-Medonte, closer to Orillia.

She says her situation is worse than Pressnail’s, because on her street, which she suspects has more than 20 homes, four of them are being operated by Stayana Homes Rental, including the two properties next door.

The properties for rent are brand new 5,500 square-foot homes, just built this spring. Renters started showing up right away, and McDermot says there were problems right off the bat.

“It was shocking, actually,” she says. “I had my trepidation, but I had no idea it was going to be this bad.”

McDermit says that between the two properties next to her there are roughly 40 renters at all times, for the six months of the year that the weather is nice. Her issues with the renters are similar to Pressnail’s.

“We’ve also had people trespassing collecting firewood on our property,” she says.

McDermot has lived in her home for more than 20 years. She and her husband built their own home, as the land was gifted to them through a family inheritance.

McDermot says the rental company did build an eight-foot fence between her property and theirs, however it does little to keep the noise at bay. She adds that there have been instances where the noise is so loud, their windows vibrate.

“We call the police. We call the bylaw control officer. Nothing ever changes,” she says. “Nobody seems to really care about us.”

McDermit says she would be in favour of banning short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods altogether. Since enforcing rules around bylaws is complaint driven, if short-term rentals are allowed, in her opinion, the policing would essentially fall to neighbours.

“Nobody ever came to me and said, ‘You’re going to be policing a hotel next door, is that OK with you?'” says McDermit. “Why should I have to police a commercial operation? I didn’t sign up for that.”

Stayana Homes Rental did not respond to requests for comment.


Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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